The Zambia National Educational Coalition (ZANEC) is pleased to join the rest of the world in commemorating International Literacy Day which falls today 8th September, 2022. Literacy, which simply refers to one’s ability to read and write should be a must especially in this era where almost everything is being digitalized. The important role that literacy plays in a person’s wellbeing and the ability to contribute to national development cannot be over-emphasized. Despite the important role that literacy plays in our education system, we note with sadness that youth and adult literacy education continue to be least resourced in the Education and Skills Sector as evidenced from the analysis of the 2022 National Budget allocation to the Education and Skills Sector by ZANEC.
This year’s theme is “Transforming Literacy Learning Spaces”. According to the Cambridge English dictionary, transformation means a complete change in the appearance or character of something, especially for purposes of improvement. A transformation is therefore an extreme radical change. As we can deduce from this definition, it is indeed important to transform spaces that we have been using to deliver literacy. This is because the COVID 19 pandemic brought about a wakeup call not to do things as usual in the Education and Skills Sector. Learning should no longer be confined to a classroom or meeting physically. Instead, we need to embrace blended learning spaces that combine face to face and remote learning modes in order to mitigate against the learning loss that has resulted from the closure of schools due to the COVID 19 pandemic. We need learning spaces that can help us provide continuity of learning even during calamities such as the COVID 19 pandemic. It has been observed that although digital learning is key in providing continuity of learning in homes, not everyone has access to digital platforms, hence the need for investment in digital infrastructure especially in rural areas. Therefore, there is need to narrow down or completely reduce the digital divide between the vulnerable and the privileged people to ensure equitable access to e-learning platforms.
The main challenge that our education system is currently facing is the low literacy levels even among our children at primary school level. with only 5% of grade 7 pupils achieving minimum proficiency in literacy according to the 2018 report by the organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, our education system is experiencing a foundational literacy crisis. Therefore, something needs to be done now to reverse the status quo.
ZANEC is saddened that according to UNESCO, nearly 24 million learners might never return to formal education post COVID 19, out of which, 11 million are projected to be girls and young women. Further, according to the Zambia demographic health survey of 2018, people living in urban areas are more likely to be literate than those living in rural areas, although the gap in literacy rates between urban and rural populations is higher among women than among men. Eighty-one percent of urban women and 91% of urban men are literate, as compared with 54% of rural women and 74% of rural men. It is also evident that most people in our communities are unable to access Constituency Development Funds (CDF) because they are unable to read and write.
To ensure no one is left behind, we need to enrich and transform the existing learning spaces through an integrated approach and enable literacy learning in the perspective of lifelong learning. The characteristics of youth and adult learners, their evolving needs for literacy learning such as flexibility, proximity, ease of access, and link with the labour market are guiding factors for the transformation of literacy learning spaces. The transformation of literacy learning spaces not only entails the management of physical facilities more sustainably but also comprises changes in the governance structure of education systems and institutions by allowing the outcomes of literacy from informal and non-formal settings to be recognized, validated, and accredited through flexible data-driven monitoring and evaluation processes.
Therefore, we also take the opportunity to appeal to our government through the Ministry of Finance to allocate funds to recruit more adult literacy instructors targeting all the provinces and not only one province as it was in the 2022 national budget.
ZANEC wish all of you a fruitful international literacy day commemoration.
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